Over the last two years, I have written an article around the Christmas break that revolved around the team’s pre-Christmas record and what that meant moving forward in terms of playoff chances. Two seasons ago, at 39 points by the break, the Devils were in a decent position. Between 2005-2015, the New Jersey Devils gained at least 39 points in five of nine seasons (the lockout-shortened season not included). They made the playoffs in each of those 5 seasons. However, sadly the 2015-16 team was unable to capitalize on a decent start and did not make the dance. Last year, of course, the team’s situation was best described as a dumpster fire by the break, and with only 33 points gained by that point, they were essentially out of the playoff race already.
This year, things are looking considerably better. With the team in first place in the Metropolitan after Thursday night’s game, the Devils have set themselves up with a quality chance at playing beyond the beginning of April. With a 20-9-5 record for 45 points, and one more game to play before the Christmas holiday, the Devils have their best chance to make the postseason at Christmastime since the 2009-10 season when the team went 26-8-1 by the break and dominated the Atlantic Division. That team ended up winning the division before a sad and disappointing first round playoff exit. The team this year may not be as dominant by Christmas as that team was, but by that 2009-10 season they were proven to be unable to do anything in the second season, with disappointing early-playoff exits year after year. This year’s iteration of the Devils is new and upcoming, and as a result one can argue that they have way more potential to do some damage in April and May.
There is a twitter account for MoneyPuck.com that tracks playoff odds and posts the chart each week. This past week, they gave the Devils a nearly 70% chance, sitting exactly at 69.91%. That was the second best odds in the Metro, behind only Columbus who was at over 85% according to the website. Either way, however, if you told me that by Christmas the Devils would legitimately have a 70% chance to make the playoffs, I would have probably said you were certifiably nuts, but at the same time I would have absolutely signed up for it. Heck, I would’ve signed up for a 50% chance by this time, never mind a 70% chance.
So for this holiday season, I believe we have some real reasons as Devils fans to feel the Christmas Cheer. The first reason, and the one that is definitely more acute, was the amazing win over New York on Thursday. There is nothing like utterly dominating a rival for the entire game and coming out of it with two points. Yeah it wasn’t great that NY also got a point, but given how the puck luck was going that game, actually getting the two points out of it was awesome considering how well New Jersey looked. And, beyond just that awesome game and looking more at the team in general this season, what they have been able to accomplish so far has really put them in the driver’s seat. If they are going to make the playoffs come April, it will not need to come with the help of others, and it will not require some real long winning streak that would have been required last season. It will just take some more consistent, solid play. If they just keep doing what they’re doing, good things will come.
So Devils fans, let us rejoice this holiday season! Because unlike last year, and unlike most of the last several seasons, our favorite team has looked great and played great up until the break, and we haven’t seen a team this poised to do something positive in several years. And for me, just like it probably is for you as well, that makes this holiday all the more sweet.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Let’s Go Devils!